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Case Studies > Increasing the pollinator population with The Scottish Bee Company

Dumfries & Galloway (Hives around Scotland and office in Edinburgh


Case Study Increasing the pollinator population with The Scottish Bee Company Dumfries & Galloway (Hives around Scotland and office in Edinburgh www.helpingithappen.co.uk
Case Study Increasing the pollinator population with The Scottish Bee Company The Scottish Bee Company is a business with a purpose. By marketing premium bee products internationally, online and in luxury Scottish retailers, it supports a programme of reinvestment in Scotland's bee farming industry.

The Scottish Bee Company was borne out of the passions of its co-founders, husband and wife team Iain and Suzie Millar. Both had become fascinated by bees and the role they play in crop pollination. They were aghast at the well-documented decline of wild and managed bee species and the potential effects on the wider ecosystem and resolved to do what they could to help.

Iain said: “We weren't inclined to sit on the sidelines and watch the decline of species that does such important pollination work for us. The problem was what to do about it? Sure, we could set up a couple of hives of honey bees, but we felt that the scale of the problem of pollinator decline demanded a bolder solution. To make an impact on the pollinator population, we would need villages full of hobby beekeepers to make the same impact as one average-sized commercial bee farm, so we figured the latter was the way to go. Unfortunately, neither of us are bee farmers. Where we did think we could offer some value though was on the commercial side”.

The resulting model is a simple one. The Scottish Bee Company invests in hives and bees for existing, commercial scale, beefarmers and contracts to buy the resulting honey at a pre-agreed rate. Iain tells us: “We take care of the processing, jarring, sales and marketing and let the bee farmer get on with the business of farming bees unencumbered. We retain ownership of the hives, so we shoulder a lot of the ongoing risk and incentivise beefarmers to increase the pollinator population. It's a virtuous circle; effective pollination dramatically increases crop yield, supports managed moorland and produces a premium Scottish food product that is sought after at home and overseas”.

The Scottish Bee Company's pilot year concluded successfully in 2017 with a minimum viable number of hives placed with bee farms in all four corners of Scotland. Capacity has been increased tenfold for 2018. Managing that capacity is at the front of the directors' minds. According to Suzie: “We're acutely aware of the need to manage that growth. We're alert to the risks of overloading the capacity, so we're working hard to ensure that we increase honey bee numbers in a responsible fashion. If we don't have the right people in place to manage the bees sustainably, we won't invest".

Now that the pilot season has been successfully concluded, The Scottish Bee Company has turned its attentions overseas. ‘We're at a scale now to operate in export markets, which allows us to grow production in Scotland without creating downward pressure on price. Overseas demand is huge; It's a complicated way to do business of course, but our board of directors offer us first class access a pre-existing distribution network. The Scottish Bee Company sets itself ambitious goals, but the experience of the pilot year suggests that it is well placed to meet them.
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